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The Forgetting Tree

A Rememory

Rae Paris

Memoir, African American Studies, Poetry

Paperback
Available December 2017
ISBN: 9780814344262
Pages: 168 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 41 color photographs; 18 black-and-white photographs
eBOOK
Available December 2017
ISBN: 9780814344279

Rae Paris began writing The Forgetting Tree: A Rememory in 2010, while traveling the United States, visiting sites of racial trauma, horror, and defiance. The desire to do this work came from being a child of parents born and raised in New Orleans during segregation, who ultimately left for California in the late 1950s. After the death of her father in 2011, the fiction Paris had been writing gave way to poetry and short prose, which were heavily influenced by the questions she’d long been considering about narrative, power, memory, and freedom. The need to write this story became even more personal and pressing.

While Paris sometimes uses the genre of "memoir" or "hybrid memoir" when referring to her work, in this case the term "rememory," born from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, feels most accurate. Paris is driven by the familial and historical spaces and by what happens when we remember seemingly disparate images and moments. The book’s three sections are motivated by the ongoing movement for black lives—with the headings "Bones," "Bodies," and "Souls." Paris’s writing is raw and unapologetic as it delves into a history shaped by stories of terror and resistance. The collection is not fully prose or poetry, but more of an extended funeral program or a prayer for those who have passed through us.

A perfect blending of prose, poetry, and images, The Forgetting Tree is a unique and thought-provoking collection that argues for a deeper understanding of past and present so that we might imagine a more hopeful, sustainable, and loving future.

Rae Paris is from Carson, California. Her work has been supported by a NEA Literature Fellowship, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Hedgebrook, Hambidge Center, and Atlantic Center for the Arts, and VONA. She is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Washington.


Author website: blackspaceblog.com

Rae Paris’s The Forgetting Tree is a mixed media literary collage examining the Black familiar. With poetry, photography and prose that challenge notions of race, resistance and family, Paris reclaims and names what June Jordan identified as ‘our destiny.’ This is an auspicious and audacious debut from a poet and prose stylist who does not play. Paris understands tradition, roots and rage. The Forgetting Tree, simply put, is both requiem and reassurance for our natural need to nurture, be loved, and resist.

– Tony Medina, author of I Am Alfonso Jones

The Forgetting Tree: A Rememory is the lyric record of a poet’s journey through sites of historical trauma and personal loss, at once harrowing and elegiac. Through poems, testimonial narratives, memoir, letters and speeches, in the voice of her own courageous imagination and the voices of others, living and dead, Paris convenes the instruments for her symphony of utterance. She guides us on her solitary travels through familial history and the plantation south, from segregation to redlining, and into the streets of our perilous present, mapping the hanging and forgetting trees. This is not a usual first book, and its poet docent has given us fair warning: This is not the regular tour. This is a work well beyond what we might expect, and I stand in deep admiration of it.

– Carolyn Forché, author of Blue Hour and The Country Between Us

Rae Paris's The Forgetting Tree is a multi-genre masterpiece. Rarely do we get books that move between poetry and prose so brilliantly. Somehow, Paris manages to move the reader beyond spectacle, beyond shiny literary art, to a place where readers are being asked to give everything we can in response to the text. I don't think I've read a book in the 21st century that passionately ask as much from readers as The Forgetting Tree. It is necessary reading for anyone serious about loving black people.

– Kiese Laymon, author of the forthcoming memoir Heavy

Rae Paris moves with courage and vulnerability through a tour of the many painful markers of America's history of racial violence--a history that will continue to dog the present until more of us find the humility and the humanity to speak to its lingering effects. The Forgetting Tree punctures our national reticence around slavery, and offers a measure of necessary healing.

– Tracy K. Smith, 2017 Poet Laureate of the United States